Charlie, 15 years old is training to be a Mental Health Champion.

Charlie was bullied at school for years. At 13 years old he found YMCA who helped him to belong, contribute and thrive. Here he talks about counselling and support and how important it is to talk to your peers if you are suffering.

“Since coming to YMCA, I’ve found the confidence to do something I love. I’ve done lots of acting; I’ve worked with Suranne Jones and been in The Bill, it gives me confidence, doing acting.

YMCA has been there for me, every day I can call them. If I ever have a problem, they are there. They mean a lot to me; they’ve put all the effort in to me to make sure I’m ok. It’s the first time in a long time I’ve felt wanted and cared about. I’ve made a lot of new friends here.

The people I’ve met here, we go through a lot of the same things, so we can help each other. It makes you feel a lot better because you’ve made a difference to them as well.

My youth worker has made an incredible difference to me. He’s been there for me since day one; he’s almost like family to me and supports me in everything I do. He doesn’t just care about me though; he cares about every one of us.

I don’t think I’d be standing here with a smile if it wasn’t for YMCA. There were times when I wished I was dead; the YMCA was there to change it. I know it’s quite hard to say, but that’s the truth at the end of the day. I went through a time when I started hurting myself, wishing I was dead. I wouldn’t talk to anyone, I wouldn’t smile and I didn’t want to do anything, to be honest.

I was bullied at school, I had sticks and stones thrown at me, told to go and kill myself. It was every time, all the time. I didn’t like being there at all. Every time I tried to tell someone at school they just ignored me, the school blanked it.

One time I had a panic attack in class. I swore and then I was put in isolation for swearing, they always managed to make it seem like it was me. That was even more depressing. It made me feel bad about myself; because I always thought I was the bad person. Until I found YMCA and then I got all the support I needed.

The Mental Health Champions Programme is great. I enjoy helping other people and I’m talking to people who have been through the same things I have. When I’ve helped other people, it’s made me feel better about myself. I’ve met some great people here. The people at YMCA are the nicest people I’ve ever come across. You help them, they help you and we all understand each other. They’ve been through hard times and I’ve never had that before, someone my age that understands what I’m going through.

You need to trust someone and a lot of people don’t have that trust. Support and counselling is so important. When I was at school I needed to talk to someone straight away and I didn’t have that. I had no one to go to and that made me really angry. I think if I’d had someone to talk to, the bullying would have stopped much quicker. I can’t change the past, but I can make an impact on the future and the future of my friends and the people I’ve met here.

I don’t want what happened to me to happen to anyone, because it was awful. Things aren’t perfect, I can’t say I’m exactly where I want to be, but I’m in a lot better place than where I was. I’ve just got to be patient and keep working with YMCA and then hopefully by the time I get to being an adult, I’ll be successful and happy.”

Mental Health Champions is a local YMCA project working in schools and youth clubs to help improve young people’s wellbeing and resilience.

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